Swedish Language Blog

Old Norse words in English Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Swedish Language, Vocabulary

We know that English is a mixture of a lot of languages like Celtic, Gaelic, Latin languages and also some Old Norse. Have you ever thought about it that there is a deeper connection to the Nordics in Scotland and England than you would think? There are plenty of traces of Old Norse in different British dialects like Yorkshire-dialect or Northern Scottish dialects and Island Scottish. A Western-Nordic language called Norn was a spoken language until the beginning of the 18th century on both Shetland and the Orkneys. You can still hear the Norn influence in these dialects and some vocabulary aswell.


Whenever we compare languages and how they are related we are not’t only looking at the structure of grammar but the basic vocabulary as well. Names of the family, tools used in agriculture and words that might have been similar in the beginning of the first trade contacts, numerals and days of the week for instance. New alternative theories often make the mistake  that they compare today’s vocabulary instead of the earliest traces of similarities.


However, it would be a very thorough and complicated work  to describe and compare all the Nordic languages and English here in a blog topic but I will give you some Swedish and English examples. The more common and frequent the loan word is in everyday English the wider and stronger influence it proves.

Some of the sources state that the amount of Old Norse words in English are approximately in between 4000-5000. These words trickled down to all classes in society just like the French loan words after the Norman invasion in 1066. This obviously means that the Old Norse words started to appear in the beginning of the 800s.

Verbs in Swedish and English: (taga-take, skaka-shake, kasta-cast, giva-give, klippa-clip, rinna-run, yrka-work, rida-ride etc.)

Nouns in Swedish and English: (kaka-cake, vind-wind, vindöga-window, link-länk, fot-foot, skinn-skin, gäst-guest, arm-arm, kniv-knife, land-land, man-man, ko-cow, bröd-bread, sky-sky, rot-root, lag-law, skepp-ship, båt-boat etc.)




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  1. Harry:

    Perhaps you have already discussed this in another post, but jag lär mig svenska and I’ve noticed that English and Swedish irregular verbs seem to be more similar in the past tense than either the present or the past participle. See give ≠ ge, bid ≠ be, stand ≠ står, but gave = gav, bade = bad, stood = stod, osv. Is there a particular reason for this tendency? Is this just a Germanic remnant or was there borrowing?

  2. Tibor:

    Remnant I guess but there is another interesting thing that is called saxad-böjning in Swedish where you have strong word that haven’t really decided whether they want to be strong or they wanna follow the regular paradigm. Like mös/myste, lös/lyste and so on. And not all the strong verbs are strong in other Germanic languages either.